Mr. Speaker, it is great to be here tonight. I hope we have a good debate here tonight. I am not so sure that we did not catch the NDP off-guard a couple of days ago when we did the last stage of discussion of this bill, because it seemed they came up with the same talking points all evening. Its members had about two points. Hopefully, tonight, we can have a broader discussion.
We do want to talk about Bill , which is about cluster munitions. The speech I have here tonight will lay out a good explanation of what Bill C-6 is about, why it needs to be put in place, and how it would be a good balance for Canadians, for Canadian troops, and for our responsibilities around the world.
I do not think that there is a person in this House who does not share with me the sense that the world would be far better off without cluster munitions. They cause death, injury, and damage wherever they are used, and they can create significant long-lasting humanitarian consequences for civilian lives and for civilian livelihoods. This is because cluster munitions disperse large numbers of smaller bomblets, increasing the risk that some of these munitions will strike non-combatants and that any submunitions that do not explode will cause an ongoing threat to civilian populations and reconstruction.
Munitions can be dropped from an aircraft, or they can be shot out of artillery or out of rockets to attack a variety of targets, such as armoured vehicles or troops. When the munitions release the bomblets, some will detonate, but many do not. The result is small, unexploded submunitions lying on the ground. Like anti-personnel mines, they must be located, disarmed, and disposed of safely before a backyard, family garden, public park, or any other land can be returned to any kind of normal use. The bomblets are, to an extent, even more problematic than land mines, because they scatter at random, which makes them much harder to locate, to identify, and then to destroy.
Today, almost 30 countries are contaminated by cluster munitions from past wars. Some are recent, but in other cases, wars that ended long ago have left a legacy that remains armed and lethal. In countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, for example, cluster munitions dropped more than 40 years ago during the Vietnam War continue to cause deaths and injuries. Similarly, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and more recently, Syria and Libya, are also plagued by unexploded cluster munitions used in these recent conflicts or, in the case of Syria, a civil war that is still going on.
Canada has always been committed to protecting civilians from the indiscriminate use of explosive remnants of war. Canada has never produced cluster munitions. I want to point that out because there may be some confusion here later, once the opposition begins speaking. Though we have had them in our arsenal in the past, we have never used them in our military operations. That needs to be understood as well. That is why we have no problems in getting rid of cluster munitions stockpiles in our possession, even before ratifying the convention.
It was only logical, therefore, that we played a leading role in the negotiations that resulted in the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2008. The convention itself prohibits the use, the development, the production, the stockpiling, and the transfer of cluster munitions. I want to go through that list again. It prohibits the use, the development, the production, the stockpiling, and the transfer of cluster munitions. Canada is already in the process of implementing the convention. Some of its requirements will require the domestic implementation of legislation before Canada can ratify, which is what Bill is here to do.
The Government of Canada will be committing itself to refraining from making, using, stockpiling, or transferring cluster munitions. Again, that needs to be made clear before the debate goes any further. I will repeat it. We are going to refrain from making, using, stockpiling, or transferring cluster munitions. The bill would make it an offence for individual Canadians to do the same. This is the last major requirement here in Canada before we can ratify the convention. I urge hon. members to support it, so that we can take our place among the growing community of states parties that have renounced these weapons.
The bill also reflects important compromises that were made during the negotiation of the convention in order to ensure that the legitimate defence and security interests of the countries that are party to the treaty are upheld. We would much prefer a world in which all of our allies joined the convention, but the reality is that we are not there yet. Given this situation, Canada and others had to find a way to negotiate a strong treaty, while at the same time remembering that we need to continue to co-operate with some of our closest military allies who may not soon be in a position to join it.
This is in contrast with what I heard one of the official opposition members say the other night, that we just should not bother to co-operate at all with the United States. That is a position that is completely impractical, but the NDP members seemed to think that they could embrace that.
The Canadian Armed Forces work closely with our allies, especially the United States. Our national security depends on that co-operation. Canadian soldiers, sailors and air personnel regularly join with their American counterparts in training and combat. We exchange personnel so that each of us is closely familiar with the operational procedures of the other.
The United States has not joined the convention and while Canada will continue to urge our American friends to do so, it is necessary for us to collaborate in a manner which will respect our new obligations on the one hand, while also respecting our obligations to our close ally on the other.
In order to allow countries and their military forces to co-operate with one another, article 21 was included in the convention. However, the armed forces of a state party cannot co-operate with those of a non-party state if the activities involved are a crime for their individual members. I think that is obvious.
In order to allow Canadian Armed Forces personnel to continue to work, train, fight and co-operate with their American counterparts without the risk of individual criminal liability, under this bill, the principles that are in article 21 of the convention must also be reflected in Canadian criminal law.
The bill would do this by creating specific new offences that would apply to everyone in Canada and then by excluding from those offences personnel who co-operate as permitted by the convention. Such individuals must generally be Canadian officials or members of the Canadian Armed Forces. They must be engaging in permitted forms of military co-operation and that co-operation must be taken with members of armed forces of state that is not a party to the convention.
One of the important benefits of article 21 is that it allows countries that wish to join the convention to do so without having to give up military co-operation with those allies that have not yet become state parties to the convention.
It was essential that the treaty permit this kind of co-operation between the militaries of countries that have joined the treaty and the countries that have not. Without such provisions, many countries that wanted to address the impact of cluster munitions by joining the treaty would likely not have done so. Instead, with the inclusion of article 21, countries are not forced to choose between working with their allies in the interest of broader peace and security and their efforts to do all that they can to get rid of the scourge of cluster munitions.
Indeed, article 21 enables more countries to join the treaty, thereby moving us much closer to the eventual elimination of these munitions.
While some may not like the provisions of article 21, it represents a negotiated compromise between states, and it forms an integral part of the fabric of the convention.
Clause 11 of this bill, which we are addressing tonight, implements the terms of article 21. Clause 11 would ensure that Canadian Armed Forces personnel would be able to continue to work with the American armed forces or any other allied non-party state, such as Turkey, Israel or Poland, all states that have not signed on yet. That includes by joining their military units on exchange without exposure to criminal liability.
I need to point out that Canadian Armed Forces members will never be permitted to directly use cluster munitions at any time. If people hear anything different later tonight, that will be an attempt to mislead and misdirect people to what is the actual reality of this bill and the treaty.
A Canadian Armed Forces order will be issued to ensure this. However, given concerns that were raised in relation to clause 1, at committee we were able to work together and the government agreed to an amendment that was unanimously adopted. The amendment would ensure what the government had intended all along, and which the Canadian Forces order will reinforce, and that is that members of the Canadians Armed Forces may never directly use cluster munitions at any time, even when they are on exchange with a non-state party's military unit.
The Canadian Armed Forces order will reflect all of the requirements of Bill as ultimately adopted by Parliament. In addition, and going beyond the requirements of the convention, the order would also prohibit the transport of cluster munitions aboard carriers belonging to or under the control of the Canadian Armed Forces. It would further prohibit Canadian Armed Forces members on exchange with states that were not party to the convention from instructing and training in the use of cluster munitions.
Most of the requirements of the convention do not require domestic legislation. Bill only implements the requirements that make it a necessity. For example, the convention requires Canada itself not to develop, stockpile or use prohibited munitions. We have not, we will not develop them and we will not use them. Also, no legislation is needed to destroy the stockpiles that we do have. The government can do that on its own.
However, the treaty obliges Canada to extend these prohibitions to private companies and individuals in Canada by enacting the necessary criminal offences. It is these offences, along with the supporting definitions and exclusions, that form the core of Bill .
The bill would make it illegal for any person or organization in Canada, and members can go through the list as it is extensive, to develop, produce, acquire, use, stockpile, retain or transfer cluster munitions. It would also make it a crime to aid, abet or counsel someone else to do these things, even if they were done in a country where cluster munitions were not illegal.
This expansion of Canadian criminal law then makes it necessary to exclude individuals within the Canadian Armed Forces and other public officials for scenarios in which they engage in the forms of military co-operation that are permitted by the convention.
One of the long-term challenges of this convention will be its full international acceptance or its universalization. If we really want to rid the world of the scourge of cluster munitions, we need to ensure that as many countries as possible sign and ratify the treaty and, more important, that they fulfill their obligations to destroy all stockpiles of these weapons. Ideally, all countries of the world would join the convention. However, until that day arrives, it is important for all of us who believe in this treaty and its goals to continue with those efforts.
The Government of Canada is committed to doing just that. Of course, we are not alone in encouraging other countries to join the convention. Many of our friends and allies, like the U.K., Australia, France, Germany and others, are also working hard in this regard, as all parties to the convention are expected to do.
As I have already noted, the United States has not joined the treaty and may not do so any time soon. Canada accepts that other countries are and should be free to make their own decisions on what international obligations to sign onto, but we nonetheless will continue to encourage the Untied States and others to support this historic and important treaty.
I know that all members in the House, like me, are anxious for Canada to complete its ratification of the treaty. As soon as the bill is enacted, Canada will be able to take the next step to ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
The government has already begun fulfilling its future commitments to do away with the cluster munitions under its control. As I have said, the Department of National Defence has destroyed the vast majority of the former stockpile of cluster munitions and hopes to finish that destruction process by the end of this summer.
Internationally, Canada has participated actively in the first four meetings of state parties to the treaty in order to encourage its universal acceptance. We have also voluntarily submitted annual reports on our implementation of the treaty. Once we have ratified it, the commitment to submit annual reports will become a legal obligation.
These reports, which each state party must submit, show the rest of the world what each country is doing to get rid of cluster munitions. They will also explain what countries are doing to clear contaminated areas and rehabilitate victims. Canada believes that such reporting is important and necessary to ensure that all countries are meeting their obligations, and that is why we are already voluntarily providing these reports.
Finally, hon. members should be aware that Canada is also helping some of the nearly 30 countries that are contaminated by cluster munitions to clean up these explosive remnants. Since 2006, we have contributed more than $215 million to Mine Action projects around the world, which address the problem of explosive remnants of war, including cluster munitions.
For example, Canada has provided funding for projects in Laos for education on the risks of cluster munitions and for the clearance of those munitions. We have also provided funds to Bosnia and South Sudan to clear cluster munitions still lying around from the recent civil wars.
In November of last year, the hon. announced that the government would give an additional $10 million over 18 months to do even more to clear mines and cluster munitions to help victims of weapons and to educate local populations to be more aware of the risks.
In conclusion, I know hon. members on all sides of the House share my concerns about the tragic humanitarian consequences of these weapons. I urge all hon. members to support the bill so it can be enacted as quickly as possible and allow Canada to ratify the treaty and do our part to get rid of cluster munitions around the world.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to debate at third reading of Bill . It has had a rather long history. In fact, it goes back to a bill we had before the last prorogation of Parliament. It was actually a Senate bill. Just to remind people, this is a bill to implement an international treaty. At the time, I was deeply concerned that we had a pattern of having bills as important as Bill C-6 being initiated in the Senate. I say that because it is important that we are the ones to initiate legislation in the House.
However, we had a prorogation. The government actually did bring the bill back to the House of Commons, which is important. I had expressed my dismay and concern about the fact that it had its origins in the Senate. I had talked to the , as was already intimated by my colleague on the foreign affairs committee, the member from Saskatchewan. It was a matter of trying to convince the government that the Senate bill was problematic.
I went to the government and said that clause 11 was a problem. We have gone over this many times in the House. The person who actually negotiated this on behalf of the government said that the bill was flawed. This was not the opposition saying this. This was actually someone who negotiated the international treaty. To give some context, we send our brightest and most competent people to negotiate treaties on our country's behalf. As has been mentioned, the person who did that on behalf of our country looked at the bill and said that it undermined the integrity of the treaty we signed.
When we sign treaties, that is the first step. Then we have to implement them, because otherwise they are just a signature on a piece of paper. The implementation of the treaty is the bill we have, and it is absolutely critical to get it right.
I went across the aisle and talked to the and told him that this was a problem, particularly clause 11. I noted the fact that our own diplomat who negotiated the treaty had a problem with it. The minister listened, and I waited to see what response there would be. This was a Senate bill, remember. Sadly, the bill stayed put. The Conservatives did not change it, so it became a controversy not just here in Canada, as I will outline in my speech, but in the international community. This is not just about the opposition critiquing the bill. It is about what the international community is saying about the bill. It is about what our very own diplomats who negotiated the treaty are saying about the bill, which is that the bill is problematic.
It is worth noting that after almost two years of trying to engage the government to amend the bill, the Conservatives did allow one amendment. It is important to note that since 2011 I can count on one hand the number of times the Conservatives have accepted amendments.
It took a very long time to get a small amendment. It is absolutely true that I tried to work with the government on this. However, the amendment it brought forward was not enough to deal with the issues we have with the integrity of the bill as juxtaposed with the treaty.
It is very important to lay that out, because it shows that the government, first of all, took a long time to get the legislation going. We had signed the treaty. It took a couple of years to present legislation. At the same time, other countries that had signed the treaty had ratified it. It was put in place, and they were moving forward.
This is really important, because right now, as we speak, cluster munitions are being used in conflict. We are having to catch up, just like we had to do with land mines.
These are heinous munitions. It is difficult to understand how people contemplate these forms of munitions. Unlike land mines, which are planted in the ground, cluster munitions actually fall from the sky, and when they land, they explode with bomblets right across the terrain. No one is able to actually track them. Land mines are a bit different. We can find out from enemy combatants where they are planted. With cluster munitions, that is not the case.
The majority of victims, as we know, are civilians. Too many of them are children, because often children mistake them for toys. The said this himself. He was very moved when he went to Cambodia and heard testimony. I gave this testimony last time we debated the bill. Kids actually take these back to their homes and go to play with them, and they blow up, They remove limbs and also take lives. These are heinous things. We have to get this right.
The government took its time bringing legislation forward. It tried it in the Senate and prorogation ended it. The same is offered here, after I went to the government.
What were some of the concerns? They have been enumerated numerous times, but I want to give a critique, not just from me but from the international community, on Canada's legislation for the implementation of an international treaty. There are a couple that are worthy of noting. We have noted them before, but they require repetition.
Let me quote first from our friends from Norway, who were responsible for helping to get this treaty together. The Norwegian ambassador, Steffen Kongstad, whose country holds the presidency for the actual process of the treaty, said:
We would normally not comment on the internal process in other countries. But I can say that we would not present such a law in the Norwegian parliament. It seems somewhat inconsistent with the purpose of the convention.
I do not think I have to tell members that diplomats speak diplomatically. When a diplomat who is in charge of the overall integrity of the treaty says to one of the member states that is a signatory to the treaty that he would not actually bring this forward to his own parliament, that is a very strong, direct signal from a diplomat. It is basically saying, “You got it wrong. You need to change it.” It is important to note that.
The Red Cross is another international voice we have heard from. Again, it is very rare. It is in the mandate of the Red Cross that it does not comment on a country's activities, behaviours, et cetera, because it undermines the integrity of the Red Cross. It is to be objective. It was actually the Red Cross that cited our legislation as not being sufficient, as undermining the treaty.
It is perplexing. Many people are asking how clause 11, on interoperability, happened. We have had this debate back and forth between the government and members of my party about why we had to have this. Other countries and people who helped negotiate and implement this legislation are actually saying that it is not the case. We can have interoperability and still ensure that none of our forces, diplomats, or anyone involved in the theatre of war would have anything to do with cluster munitions. The government says we cannot do that but then says that we will never use them. It has an inconsistency in its argument.
The question is how we got here. I would argue that it is the way the government does policy, particularly on international affairs. What we learned after we heard from the former diplomat who actually negotiated the treaty was that after the treaty was negotiated and the government signed the treaty, it went to implement it. Who did the government go to exclusively? It went to the Department of National Defence. It should consult the Department of National Defence. It is very important. There is expertise. We heard from the department at committee. It was extraordinarily important to hear from it, because it has to know how to implement the actual legislation in theatre. However, what was astonishing, and it is a pattern with the government, was that it was not consulting the Department of Foreign Affairs.
It is astonishing. Here is how I understood and still understand the way things should work when it comes to international treaties, particularly around conflict. It is the role of the diplomats to negotiate these treaties, and it is the role of our diplomats and our , who is the top diplomat in cabinet, to look at how to implement legislation. He or she should be going to the department and seeking out the best advice from experts in diplomacy on how we implement a treaty in legislation.
That did not happen. What we had instead was the Department of National Defence having the first go at it, and we ended up with this clause 11. That's nothing to say against the military; it protects itself. We know that. That is what institutions and departments do.
What the department did was that it put in clause 11 in the bill, after section 22 of the treaty, which talks about interoperability. It was pretty clear, and I actually asked for an amendment to lift section 22 out of the treaty and to put it into the legislation. Then there would have been an absolutely direct connection between the treaty and legislation, by cut and pasting that treaty section. However, they did not do that. What they did was put in clause 11.
Clause 11 actually states, and part of this was changed through the amendment process, that Canadian Forces personnel could use cluster munitions. I say that, and most people think it is unbelievable that we would sign a treaty banning the use of cluster munitions, but then have in the implementing legislation of that very treaty a clause that would put Canadian Forces personnel into a situation where they could use cluster munitions.
We can see the inherent contradiction and paradox within the legislation. Why did the government do that? We heard from the former Chief of the Defence Staff, General Natynczyk, who said that this was very important, that there had to be clarity of purpose and direction when doing joint operations with our friends in the States. I could not agree with him more. It is true.
However, it does not preclude our having different protocols. Why? Well, when I and others were in Afghanistan, we knew on the ground that there were different caveats for different operations. They were clear. In fact, in ISAF's mandate on how it worked on the ground in Afghanistan, there were caveats for different forces who made up the international security forces in Afghanistan. They are caveats, different ways of operating in the field.
There should not be too many caveats, because they can undermine the coherence of a mission. However, we have them. The general knew that. However, he was able to get the government to put in what he wanted. What he wanted was clear: it was to have an exemption for the Canadian Forces in the case of interoperability and a scenario with the Americans where cluster munitions were used.
It is very important to note all of these facts: where the bill came from, who negotiated the bill, and the fact that we had this section 11, which the Red Cross and the diplomats who helped negotiate it for Canada, and Norway, which was responsible for the overall framework of the agreement, all said the same thing about. I will add here, just for good measure, because I know that the is a fan of Australian prime ministers, that we had a former Australian prime minister with the same party leaning as the saying this was a flawed bill.
If we put that all together, what do we have? It is a flawed bill that undermines not only the integrity of the treaty but also our reputation as a country, because our signature is on the bill. It is the legislation we are implementing.
All of these things come together with the following result. Let me read into the record what we were able to negotiate with the government as an amendment. We negotiated paragraph 11(1)(c), which would have allowed, as I was just explaining, the Canadian Forces to use cluster munitions. It is true that the government took that out. That has to be acknowledged, but what was left in there was the rest of clause 11, after it was amended. The government listened to us and took out one part of section 11, which would have allowed Canadian Forces to use cluster munitions. This inherent paradox was taken out. However, they left in the following:
Section 6 does not prohibit a person [in the forces]...in the course of military cooperation or combined military operations involving Canada and a state that is not a party to the Convention, from
(a) directing or authorizing an activity that may involve the use, acquisition, possession, import or export of a cluster munition...
What that means in English is that we could have the Canadian Forces directing an operation using cluster munitions. Let us put forward a scenario: I have cluster munitions and I am in the Canadian Forces. Before, the exemption allowed the Canadian Forces to directly drop the bomb. Now, according to what we still have and what is problematic in the bill, we could direct another force to drop cluster munitions.
That is the first problem that we have with the bill. We are glad that they took out the part that the Canadian Forces shall not use them, but directing or authorizing activity for others to use them is still problematic. It is a matter of accountability.
Yet again, there is another problem with clause 11. It refers to the Canadian Forces “expressly requesting the use of a cluster munition”. Again, directing the use of cluster munitions is allowed by the Canadian Forces, and in paragraph (b) of clause 11, they can request their use. They can ask someone to bring in a raid and drop cluster munitions on a certain target if it is for the Canadian Forces. It makes no sense. We are saying this is a treaty to ban cluster munitions, but in clause 11 we are saying it is okay for the Canadian Forces to direct or request the use of cluster munitions.
Here is the part that I find fascinating. When this point was made to the government time and time again by me, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the former prime minister of Australia, other experts, and the diplomat who negotiated this treaty, the government said that it was true that it would allow the Canadian Forces to use cluster munitions, that there was an exemption here. However, here is the caveat: the government said that it would direct, through the Chief of Defence Staff, the banning of the use of cluster munitions.
This is fine, but it is simply a promise. We are talking about legislation to follow a treaty. We have a massive loophole like this, and the government is covering it by saying that it would direct our Chief of the Defence Staff to tell our forces that we shall never use them. Members can see the contradiction. Why would we not put it into legislation to ensure that there is no scenario where Canadian Forces would use cluster munitions?
This gets into the most important argument, which is the debate that we had at committee and which is still happening outside Canada in regard to our reputation in implementing the treaty. As my colleagues already mentioned, it is the worst legislation of any signatory to the treaty.
The government says that because of interoperability, it does not really want to put in these exemptions but that it has to because of the nature of our relationship with the United States. Other NATO countries can have interoperability, according to section 22 of the treaty, and follow it, which is what we hoped and negotiated for. However, we are Canada and we are special, so we must have these loopholes.
Here is the problem. In the case of Afghanistan, as I already mentioned, we were there with the Brits, the Dutch, and others who are signatories to the treaty. They do not have this exemption. They have interoperability with the Americans.
The fact of the matter is, and my colleagues know this, that we can be explicit as to what we will be doing in the field, be it through caveats or joint training. If we are doing joint training, it is pretty obvious that we would be using the opportunity in our joint training with our American friends to say that they know that we have signed this treaty, here is the legislation, here is what we will be doing to make sure that Canada, in joint operations with our friends in the States, will not be using cluster munitions in theatre. We have already done this with land mines.
Let me finish with this. We got the government to make one amendment, but it is clearly not sufficient when the government is still allowing troops to guide and request the use of cluster munitions. That is why clause 11 must go. That is why we will oppose this bill.
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to have the opportunity to join this debate tonight.
I want to begin by thanking and congratulating all the members of the committee, who I believe did an exceptional job of pulling this bill together and giving us a bill that we in this government should be very proud of.
As members well know, cluster munitions can be delivered by aircraft, rockets, or artillery shells. Rather than detonating on impact, they open beforehand and spread a number of smaller bomblets over the target area. There are variations intended for use against different kinds of targets, but all of them are capable of causing tremendous damage. Because they can strike a large area, there is a greater risk that non-military targets or non-combatants will be hit. With some types, especially those which contain large numbers of small bomblets, any remnants that do not detonate as intended can remain lethal long after the conflict itself has ended.
If the bomblet explodes later, the result is devastating, with victims sustaining horrific injuries or even being killed. The unacceptable harm to civilians caused by cluster munitions was the motivation for negotiations on a treaty to address these weapons. After three years of sometimes difficult negotiations, the Convention on Cluster Munitions was adopted in Dublin in May 2008. The convention entered into force in August 2010. It builds on and complements other international agreements that address weapons that are prone to having indiscriminate effects. The convention prohibits countries that ratify it from using, acquiring, developing, retaining and producing cluster munitions, weapons that continue to kill and maim innocent people long after wars have ended.
It also prohibits them from assisting or encouraging anyone to engage in any of those activities. The convention entered into force in August 2010. Canada has already taken concrete steps to fulfill its future commitments under the convention. Canada has never directly used cluster munitions and even though we have not yet ratified the convention, we have already committed not to use them in the future either. Canadian companies have never produced these munitions, and while Canada does not have an existing stockpile, the Department of National Defence has already removed cluster munitions from operational stocks and they are in the process of being destroyed.
Canada is also active in promoting the universalization and implementation of the convention with international partners. It has voluntarily submitted annual transparency reports under the convention. Canada has contributed more than $215 million since 2006 to mine action projects which address the impacts of explosive remnants of war, including cluster munitions.
During his visit to Laos on October 15, 2013, the hon. announced $1 million in Canadian support for two projects aimed at clearing unexploded ordnance in Laos, the most heavily contaminated country in the world in terms of cluster munition remnants. Hon. members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development will recall that the minister undertook to set aside $10 million over the next 18 months to continue Canada's proud tradition of support to demining efforts, victim assistance and risk awareness programs. All of these activities are being implemented before Canada's ratification of the convention.
Only a small part of the convention actually requires legislation, and in keeping with its commitment, the government is now proceeding with this element to complete the package. The prohibiting cluster munitions act would fully implement the legislative requirements of the convention and its enactment by Parliament is the only major step that must still be taken before Canada can ratify the convention and join other states parties in working toward its full global acceptance and implementation.
For this treaty to be effective, as many countries as possible must join it and ensure that its provisions are enforced. Ideally, all countries will join, ensuring universalization of the treaty. To date, 84 states parties are already bound by it and another 29 states have signed it. If the bill before us becomes law, Canada can then take the final steps and ratify the convention.
The government is committed to do all it can to help ensure that the treaty is effective. To that end, the government will collaborate with our friends and allies, like the U.K. and Australia, as well as other states parties, to promote the universality of the treaty by ensuring that as many countries as possible join it and adhere to its requirements.
Bill will only implement those parts of the convention that require penal legislation in Canada. Other provisions are carried out by other means. The obligation to advocate in favour of the convention's norms, for example, will be implemented through diplomatic channels, while programming is in place to provide assistance to states affected by cluster munitions.
Let me turn now to those provisions that do require legislative implementation and that are included in Bill , which is before us today.
The convention requires states parties to extend the prohibitions it imposes into domestic criminal law. The bill, when enacted, will prohibit the use, development, making, acquisition, possession, movement, import, and export of cluster munitions.
The bill will also prohibit the stockpiling of cluster munitions in Canada through the broader proposed offence of possession in Canada. This offence will cover any form of possession, including stockpiling, and can be easily enforced and, if necessary, prosecuted in Canada's criminal justice system.
The bill will also prohibit anyone from aiding or abetting another person in the commission of a prohibited activity. This will capture a number of potential cross-border scenarios where people or organizations subject to Canadian law engage in activities that are prohibited by the convention and will also ensure that those who are subject to Canadian law can be prosecuted for the offences in Canada.
While many countries could agree to an immediate ban on cluster munitions, each country has its own defence policy and security concerns, and it is clear that not all states are currently prepared to accept this. Some of the countries that prefer a different approach to the problem are our friends and allies.
Other members of this House have suggested that Canada simply prohibit cluster munitions entirely and confront our allies with a choice between not having these munitions or not co-operating with Canada. The approach of the government, which is reflected in this bill, is more nuanced, and it is the approach which was ultimately agreed upon when the convention itself was negotiated.
Under the bill, and the convention itself, Canada will not have cluster munitions. We will not directly use cluster munitions. However, we will continue to co-operate with our allies in training and actual military operations. Some of these operations could well involve the use of these munitions by our allies, but Canada will not expressly request the use of cluster munitions if the choice of munitions used is within its exclusive control.
The policy that we are agreeing to in our international obligations will be given the force of law for Canadians by this bill. No person in Canada may possess, make, or use a prohibited munition, and no person in Canada will be permitted to take any part in activities, such as design or manufacture, even if it takes place in a country which does not ratify the convention.
On the other hand, no public servant or member of the Canadian Armed Forces will be subject to prosecution and punishment for participating in the kinds of Canadian co-operation with other countries that are specifically allowed by this treaty.
The bill will subject anyone who engages in illicit activities with respect to cluster munitions to prosecution and punishment, and it will assure other countries that we will not use private companies to retain stockpiles or manufacturing capacity that we would be prohibited from having as a states party.
However, we must take a responsible and prudent approach in deploying the criminal law so that we do not punish our own solders for military co-operation activities that are permitted under the convention.
The bill does not always use exactly the same language as the convention. This is because the convention is an international treaty that speaks to countries, while the bill is Canadian criminal law that speaks to the Canadians who are expected to obey it and the courts that will be called upon to apply it.
One issue that has been raised is whether the bill should make it an offence for a person to invest in a company that makes cluster munitions. It would send the wrong signal to markets to criminalize investments as such, it is not required by the convention, and it would be very difficult to enforce the practice. What the proposed legislation would do, however, is make it an offence to aid or abet another person or company in activities such as the making, development, or transfer of cluster munitions. This includes not only investment scenarios but other forms of encouragement or assistance as well.
If a person in Canada knowingly assists or encourages a company to commit a prohibited act, whether this is by investing capital resources or by providing technical or engineering expertise, then that person would be committing the offence even if the company aided or abetted is in another country where making the munitions is not a crime. This is an important balance to strike. If someone buys a company to make weapons offshore or specifically invests in order to fund illicit activities for a higher profit, it should be and would be a crime. On the other hand, if a Canadian, without any knowledge or intention to aid or abet the production of cluster munitions, holds a few shares in a large company that makes munitions, it should not and would not be a crime.
The bill would not implement investment policy but would establish criminal offences that can be prosecuted and punished. The use of established criminal law principles for aiding and abetting to draw the line between what is permitted and what is punishable would protect Canadians and ensure that the legislation complies with their charter rights.
The legislation before the House is solidly in step with Canada's commitment to protecting civilians against the indiscriminate effects of explosive remnants of war. Canada's ratification of the convention will give a strong signal of that commitment.
I am proud to support Bill , which would enable us to ratify the convention and begin to end the scourge of cluster munitions, once and for all. I urge members of the House to join me in supporting this bill. There is work to be done under the convention, and the sooner Canada can take its rightful place with other state parties, the better.
Mr. Speaker, I would not say it is a delight, but it is absolutely a privilege to stand and speak to Bill . I want to make it clear right from the beginning that I do not think that any of us in the House actually support the use of cluster munitions. As my colleague just said, many of us are parents and grandparents. As a teacher I have worked for a peaceful world for all children for many years of my life.
I am also one of those fortunate ones who has never actually lived in a place engaged in war, as many of us in this room, yet today, with technology what happens in war is brought right into our living rooms through television, the Internet, and our social media. Even if we did not see those images, the description of what cluster bombs and land mines can do is etched in our memories.
I am sure many of us in this room were activists to get rid of land mines. Many of us have worked very hard against the use of cluster bombs as well. Someone described it earlier as little D-sized batteries, hundreds and hundreds of them, exploding and the impact of that explosion hitting something like two to five football fields. When we have that image in our minds, especially now that soccer is being played and we can all see the size of the field, we wonder how many children get impacted. It is not just talking about something that happens overseas, it is also about what our soldiers had to face when they went to Afghanistan. They were in situations where there were land mines and cluster bombs.
Having said that, it is with a great deal of reluctance that I am going to be speaking against the motion that is before us. I was very proud of the day that my country, Canada, signed the UN convention. We were not the only ones; 113 countries from around the world signed that convention and 84 countries have ratified it. We signed the convention in 2008 and here we are in 2014 debating this.
Why has it taken this long for the bill to come into the House? It entered the House a few days before the end of this session under time allocation. If any bill should not be forced through time allocation, it should be a bill like this. We should get to have that kind of debate that is necessary and make sure that we end up with legislation that really works well, especially when the legislation is tackling something as fundamental and as serious as cluster bombs. That is what we should be doing.
I am not going to spend too much time talking about time allocation because that is the way the government does business. It does not really want to hear serious debate or a different point of view. It wants to limit that. In my riding there are people who are concerned and they want me to come to the House and represent them and speak for them. I have constituents in Newton—North Delta who care very deeply about the use of cluster munitions. They are absolutely opposed and they would understand why I am standing in the House today in opposition to this piece of legislation.
Our foreign affairs critic, the member for does an amazing job at committee. I know that he is very persuasive. He has often persuaded me to look at things differently. I know how hard he works, how knowledgeable he is on this file, and how much he cares about Canada's reputation in the international arena. I also know that we would have to go a long way to find a member of Parliament who is more interested in working on this file in a non-partisan way, in a way that will best serve Canada and best serve us in our international community.
This was an opportunity missed by my colleagues across the way. If they had heard not only his concerns but concerns expressed by others, including some of us, and had actually taken a look at section 11 of this legislation, and if they had removed that, then the government would have had the kind of coverage we have heard that the section is supposed to present.
The agreement already has section 22 in it. The interoperability clause is there. Our member, my esteemed colleague, the foreign affairs critic, the member for actually agreed, or offered, to lift the wording from the convention and put it into this legislation word for word, so that it would provide the kind of protection we heard about from our colleagues across the way.
That really was not the intention here. It is only when I listened to him that I began to see why this bill is as flawed as it is today. It may be the process it went through even before it came here. Of course we know that our colleagues across the way do have an allergy to data, science, listening to experts, or anything that might disagree with them. That would mean that they might actually have to change their minds on something. In parliamentary democracy that is supposed to happen. That is the way it works. Otherwise, there would be no need for us to debate. We could all just come in here with our minds already made up, sit, and say that is it. However, that is not how we are set up.
Here we have section 11. I heard the member for talking about that particular section and the fact that whenever we go to war we do put all kinds of caveats. We do have all kinds of arrangements that we make as to what we are going to do and what we are not going to do.
Why is it, in this case, that we have that reluctance toward doing that? The member was talking about section 11 and that we have categorically said that Canada will not use cluster bombs. Then we have a section in this bill that says, however, we will direct or ask or lead to. It reminded me of Monty Python. I do not know if members ever watch much British television. Monty Python is extremely funny, but it is also extremely serious. It deals with some horrible issues in a very entertaining way. As the member for was going through the bill, I thought that it was beginning to sound like a Monty Python sketch, in which we are going to say, “We will not use cluster munitions. We will not; however, we can direct or take direction or give direction for the use thereof.”
Therein lies the problem with this bill. That is why, in good conscience, being a mother, a grandmother, and a teacher, I could not possibly support this. There is an escape hatch in this bill that is miles wide.
We either believe in the use of cluster munitions or we believe in banning them. We cannot have these halfway measures when it comes to something as critical as this. I think about my own grandchildren, and I think, “There, but for the grace of God, go they.” They could have been unfortunate enough to have been born in a war-torn country where, as little kids, they pick up little batteries or what they think are little toys that could explode. We all know how horrific that is. I do not have to paint that picture. I actually do not have the heart to paint that kind of a picture. Why would we want to have an escape hatch that is a mile wide when we know that the interoperability clause in section 22 already gives protection and cover to Canadian soldiers?
I heard a lot about our neighbour, the U.S., and how we co-operate with the Americans and we work closely with them, and they are our great ally. All of that is true. However, we do not always agree with everything that our colleagues to the south of us believe in. We just found out recently that we do not agree with them on some pretty major issues, like maybe pipelines. However, on the other hand, when we deal with the Americans, when we have gone into war with them, we have stipulated what our forces are going to do or not going to do. Those are the kinds of agreements that are made because when we decide to go into a place where our soldiers go, we do not say, “Just go and do whatever.” When we are working in partnership, whether with the U.K. or Australia or the U.S.—
An hon. member: NATO.
Ms. Jinny Jogindera Sims: NATO. I thank my colleague from Burnaby.
It does not matter. We ourselves, as a sovereign nation, write down the parameters, the caveats, the restrictions, and then we decide to expand them.
For me it is not good enough to say, “Because the U.S. has not signed this particular convention, therefore the legislation we are going to introduce right now has to have an escape hatch a mile wide.” That is just not going to sit right with me, nor with many Canadians who are looking to us to set an example. Let me just say that we are not the only ones, sitting across this House or at the committee, who realize that the government has signed a convention and that weakens that convention, that signature on that piece of paper, through this legislation. I know my colleagues get very upset whenever there is some thought that somehow Canada's international standing might have suffered slightly over the last few years. I would say that we have been smacked a few times recently by the international community.
We had the rapporteur on first nations who came in and wrote a pretty damning report. Our reaction to it was to attack him instead of looking at the real plight of many of our first nations communities. The ILO has looked at some of our approaches to labour issues and it has not had many kind words to say about us either. We no longer have a seat on the Security Council. I have had the pleasure, when I was in my other file, of talking to many international diplomats in Ottawa who were saying how our international standing had been damaged.
We have gone from being the peacekeeper and a country that played a critical role in bringing different people together to build a consensus to a country that signs a convention and then, through this House with a majority, looks at weakening what it signed.
Here is a quote from the former Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Fraser:
It is a pity the current Canadian government, in relation to cluster munitions, does not provide any real lead to the world. Its approach is timid, inadequate and regressive.
That hurts. It hurts me when I hear the term “regressive” being used to describe Canada in the international community. I can remember the days when I taught social studies and history 12 . I would talk with great pride about the role Canada plays on the international stage, and when we get things like this, it does begin to disturb us.
Here is a quote from Paul Hannon, executive director of Mines Action Canada. He said:
Canada should have the best domestic legislation in the world. We need to make it clear that no Canadian will ever be involved with this weapon again but from our reading this legislation falls well short of those standards.
Let me explain again what we are saying in this legislation.
By the way, we do not have difficulty with this legislation. It is only clause 11, and if that section had been removed, we would not be here debating this bill tonight. It could have been passed and gone on to other stages. However, the reason we are here tonight is that we have a huge contradiction. We are saying that Canadian soldiers and Canada would not use cluster munitions. On the other hand, we are saying that if we are working with another country, we may direct their use. I cannot fathom how that is adequate. For me, as I said, this is where we enter the land of Monty Python.
My colleague earlier also talked about the Red Cross. Those of us who know the workings of the Red Cross know that it very rarely gets involved in political debate. Its work is more of advocacy and delivering services on the ground. However, in this case it was almost forced to get involved, because it sees first-hand the real impact of these cluster munitions. The Red Cross is on the front line.
The Red Cross said that clause 11:
...could permit activities that undermine the object and purpose of the convention and ultimately contribute to the continued use of cluster munitions rather than bringing about their elimination.
That is a pretty damning comment from a group that does not really get involved in politics.
Let me get back to saying what we would really like to see. Of course we want to have the strongest legislation possible to ban cluster munitions, but this particular bill is not it. I would urge my colleagues to take it back and accept amendments, which they have not done so far. Let us make sure that this bill would do what we want it to.
At this point, the bill is really problematic. As long as it has clause 11, it is impossible for us to support this bill, because with that little piece in there, this bill would not actually ban the use of cluster munitions 100%. We either do or we do not. There is no halfway.
Mr. Speaker, I thank all of my colleagues for being here tonight to debate a very important bill. I am honoured to speak to Bill because it is closely tied to our Canadian identity and to Canada's involvement in the community of nations. In addition, the bill deals with a serious moral issue.
It is crucial for us to carefully study this bill so that we can understand the extent of our commitment as we consider passing or abandoning a bill that will create so many exceptions that, in the end, the Convention on Cluster Munitions that Canada has signed but not yet ratified will be devoid of all substance. The convention has already been undermined by the position taken by Canada, which was looking to remove all substance.
I am 47 years old. The has kept the promise he made to his voter base and his core supporters to profoundly change Canada. He is doing just that.
Bill is a perfect example of the profound changes that are being made to our country, transforming it to such an extent that I no longer recognize the Canada of my childhood, 25 or 30 years ago. The Canada I was proud of is increasingly becoming an illusion and a cause of embarrassment and even shame for many of our citizens. This is a very serious problem.
Canada has long been a leader and innovator. It still has quite a strong reputation around the world as a country that has promoted, defended and put in place a series of measures and actively supported and guided all the nations of this world in affirming, defending and protecting human rights so that human dignity is defended around the world.
Former prime minister Lester B. Pearson, who was minister of external affairs at the time, established the corps of peacekeepers, soldiers of peace, so that there would be an interposition force in conflicts around the world. Canada was recognized as an innovator for that.
Unfortunately, our country has now become particularly marginal in terms of its involvement and having its soldiers once again proudly wear the blue helmets of peacekeepers and serve as an active interposition force between parties in conflict around the world.
Canada also led the charge within the Commonwealth to force South Africa to abandon its apartheid system, which had been in place for decades. That particularly cruel system had resulted in intolerable situations in which people were subdued and their fundamental rights violated.
They were even killed in some instances. We remember particularly tragic episodes in the history of South Africa in which many people paid with their lives for claiming rights as simple as the right to live in dignity, to have enough to eat, to be housed or simply to have a place in society.
We can also be proud of that legacy of Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative government. However, it now seems so long ago, and we appear to be increasingly moving away from the ideal that existed at the time.
In the 1990s, Canada also welcomed and supported the community of nations in implementing the convention on the prohibition of anti-personnel mines, also called the Ottawa treaty.
As I pointed out when I put a question to my colleague from , our government was so convinced of the validity and value of that treaty that it signed and ratified it on the same day, December 3, 1997. It was an admirable, far-reaching gesture. We can find no better example of a government moving from words to action.
Unfortunately, the effect of the bill that is before us today is to undermine a convention that has already been significantly undermined by the cycle of negotiations that the Canadian government seriously compromised. Canada forced the principle of interoperability into the convention so that our soldiers could potentially transport and use cluster munitions.
This class of weapons is far from new. Here I must admit a part of my own personal journey. When I was young, I was truly fascinated by human beings’ ability to invent all kinds of ways to gain the advantage on the battlefield and to innovate in order to neutralize and even destroy the enemy. That led me to find out about all those ways, land-based, naval and aerial.
It also helped me understand how weapons as particular, dangerous and destructive as cluster munitions could have evolved to such an advanced degree that it really sends shivers down one’s spine. Whether in bomb or missile form, cluster munitions can scatter dozens of mini-bombs or mini-missiles across the landscape. There is virtually no way to protect oneself from this type of weapon. Furthermore, once they have been used, it is very hard and dangerous to neutralize them, as is the case with anti-personnel weapons.
I listened carefully to the speeches by my Conservative Party colleagues, and I admit I absolutely failed to understand how they could defend the indefensible. I hope the image I am going to use will clearly illustrate how untenable the Conservative government’s position on Bill is.
What is being suggested as a way to prevent our soldiers from being prosecuted and convicted for using or transporting cluster munitions is comparable to my telling my son, if he sees the boy next door hit students with a baseball bat in the school yard, that I give him permission to do the same thing because I think that is fair.
This is absolutely indefensible. I do not know whether there is a better image than that, but that is the one that comes to mind. It is a deliberately brutal image. I will not conceal that fact. It is an image that shows the extent to which I think we are venturing onto a very slippery slope.
In the past three years, it has been an enormous privilege for me to serve as the member for Beauport—Limoilou and to be able to sit in the House of Commons with my 308 colleagues. I have been able to speak with people from all walks of life who have absolutely extraordinary knowledge, expertise and experience, which makes me feel quite humble. It also makes me see how far Canada’s leadership and, more particularly, the influence it can have, have declined everywhere.
I am an international relations enthusiast. A reputation is built gradually. Canada began to build its identity starting in World War I, and even before that, when the Laurier government demanded Canadian independence from the British crown. It has benefited enormously from a particularly favourable geographic situation and, at certain times, has managed to position itself admirably on the geopolitical stage.
That heritage, that clout and the influence that Canada once enjoyed are being whittled away. Our nation still wields some influence since, fortunately, people in different countries are able to make the distinction. That is what I heard on my few trips abroad. Foreigners tend to make the distinction between the government's position and the values of Canadians. This is a very minor consolation.
It is simply not good enough to say that fortunately, people believe that Canadians still have good values, when the government has gone off track and completely in the opposite direction. We cannot just stand idly by and forsake our parents', grandparents' and great-grandparents' heritage. This heritage makes it possible for Canadians to enjoy a certain degree of privilege. When Canadians meet people from other corners of the globe, they listen to us and respect us. We have credibility when we speak.
There is something that is really disappointing about this government's approach, and that is its hypocrisy. There is no need to mince words.
We cannot claim to want to eventually banish cluster munitions without taking steps to avoid their use. The government has created a huge loophole in the convention with Bill . It is just hot air, nothing but a marketing ploy, a PR exercise that will achieve very little at the end of the day, and that is truly disappointing. It betrays the trust that our constituents place in us. That is why, like my NDP colleagues, I am going to oppose the passage of this bill at third reading.
It is well nigh impossible to describe just how horrific the use of cluster munitions is.
That is why I evoked memories of my adolescence and my young adult life. I was interested in global issues, defence and the tools a country has to wage war and defend its territory. It is staggering to see the capacity of the human spirit to invent new tools that are increasingly sophisticated, broad and blind, as cluster munitions are, in order to target indiscriminately, and even primarily, civilians as opposed to combatants.
I would like to recall a very recent memory. I was learning about the advances in robotic applications and artificial intelligence on the battlefield. I will describe what I learned, which did not completely surprise me. I must admit that I was shocked to see just how easy it is to lose control. It is virtually unstoppable. We all have pictures in our heads of science fiction movies such as Star Wars, in which we see human-like combat robots deploy, fire indiscriminately and find a way of seizing the advantage on the battlefield. Indeed, the fiction pales into insignificance compared to reality.
Now, the reality is robots that have practically no humanoid appearance but a lot of characteristics found in other parts of the animal world, including the insect world. The concept that particularly struck me was that of autonomous robotic swarms. Currently, there is, for example, still some human control over the use of drones. This remote control makes it possible to keep one's distance and kill or injure people elsewhere in the world very easily while feeling a lot less implicated. This leads to huge ethical and personal conscience problems.
However, we now have very small autonomous systems that are able to cause death and destruction in innumerable swarms. I am referring to tens, hundreds or even thousands of small robots that can very easily injure or kill people wherever they are in the world and against which it is impossible to defend oneself, as is the case with cluster munitions.
When I was in university, one of the concepts that I studied in the area of international relations was obviously that of the sword and the shield. This concept indicated that for every improvement made to the sword in order to pierce the shield, the hope was to improve the shield and ward off the increased offensive capacity. Now, this concept seems increasingly outdated to me. Realistically speaking, cluster munitions are a good example of the fact that this indeed the case. It is virtually impossible to guard against swarming, a missile or a cluster bomb.
It is a system of offensive weapons that is particularly pernicious and devious. That is why I want to warn my colleagues. Our soldiers could potentially commit innumerable and immoral actions. In terms of conscience, and considering the responsibility that we have as elected members and, more fundamentally, as Canadian citizens, we need to be cognizant of the fact that we could cause our soldiers to commit such actions.
I hope that my contribution to the debate will have enlightened my colleagues in the governing party and that Bill will not pass.
Mr. Speaker, like other members of the NDP, I am rising to speak in opposition to Bill .
I want to start with a quote of Paul Hannon from Mines Action Canada. He said:
Canada should have the best domestic legislation in the world. We need to make it clear that no Canadian will ever be involved with this weapon again but from our reading this legislation falls well short of those standards.
I think this is an important place to begin the 20 minutes I have to speak on the bill.
As a number of my colleagues pointed out, there was a time when Canada could hold its head high on the world stage for the work it had done in many areas of international relations. Certainly, when we come to things like a number of declarations, Canada has had key roles to play. However, Canada has fallen far short.
I want to give an example of how we as parliamentarians can work and have worked together before I talk about what is wrong with the bill.
As a parliamentarian, I am a proud member of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, or PNND. We had in the House and the Senate a motion passed that supported the Canadian Parliament taking very strong actions in calling for non-proliferation and disarmament. We have worked together across the aisle on that initiative. It is an example of where we can come together on points that we agree on.
What I have heard from members in the House to date on this particular issue is that we all agree that cluster munitions have terrible consequences for people in countries where these munitions have been used. We can all agree that we do not want to see children maimed and killed by these munitions. Therefore, it is troubling that we have a piece of legislation that simply does not go far enough.
I want to point to the Cluster Munition Coalition. This bill was reintroduced after it had been here in another form but lost due to prorogation. However, the Cluster Munition Coalition issued a news release on October 29, 2013 entitled, “Different Name, Same Deadly Consequences”. In the release it says the following:
The bill, that should enact the Convention on Cluster Munitions in the country, proposes legislation that is not only against the spirit and the intent of the Convention, but would also put the lives of civilians at severe risk during and after armed conflicts. While the Convention on Cluster Munitions bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions in all possible forms, Bill C-6 includes a clause (Section 11) which would enable Canada to request other countries to use cluster munitions in the course of joint military operations, and in certain cases enables Canadians to use these outlawed weapons themselves.
I believe there has been an amendment that did change that last piece, but the bill would still allow Canada to work with countries who continue to use cluster munitions.
The article continues:
The Cluster Munition Coalition believes no explanation of the contested clause is plausible.... Only by closing the dangerous loopholes can Canada really claim to be banning cluster munitions and putting the protection of civilians first.
I will quote other sources on the impact of these munitions and why they are so dangerous. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway has put out a release entitled, “Cluster munitions—a humanitarian problem”. It states:
Cluster munitions are a large, and growing, problem. If their use continues to spread, and the number of those using them continues to grow, they may become an even greater humanitarian and development challenge than anti-personnel mines were in the 1990s.
Attention is now being focused on cluster munitions, a general term for a variety of weapons that disperse a large number (anywhere from 10 to several hundred) of submunitions, or bomblets, over a target area. The submunitions are placed in a container that can be dropped from aircraft or delivered by means of artillery shells or missiles. The submunitions, which are designed to explode on impact, are released from the container some distance above the target area, and are armed as they fall.
They go on to talk about the fact that over the last years, they have clearly demonstrated the unacceptable humanitarian consequences of this weapon. They go on to say:
There are two main causes of this.
First, cluster munitions cover large areas, and so do not discriminate sufficiently between civilians and military personnel. Depending on the type of cluster munition, the size of the area they cover ranges from a few hundred square metres to about 20 hectares, equivalent to 40 football fields. In many cases where cluster munitions have been used extensively, they have been used in areas where there is no clear separation of civilians and military personnel, such as cities and agricultural areas. When used in such areas, weapons that cover large surface areas with explosives almost invariably affect civilians.
Second, cluster munitions often produce a large number of ‘duds’, i.e. submunitions that have failed to explode as intended. These highly unstable explosive devices remain lying on the ground, on roofs or in collapsed houses, or are caught in trees. In practice, duds have the same effect as anti-personnel mines, injuring or killing innocent civilians, for example when they are rebuilding destroyed houses or resuming vital agricultural activities.
Because the proportion of duds is generally high—25% is not unusual—and because these weapons are often employed in large numbers, the number of duds can be extremely high. Civilians can continue to suffer casualties and injuries years after a war has ended.
Efforts to clear areas of duds and to assist victims are often extremely resource-intensive. Poor countries with limited resources can only focus on these efforts at the expense of other development aims. According to the Landmine Monitor, the international community provides about USD 400 million per year to assist affected communities in clearing munitions....
Any future proliferation of cluster munitions would greatly increase the need for assistance from the international community. Not only would the humanitarian costs be unacceptable, but a heavy economic burden would fall on affected countries.
Members can see that these are extremely dangerous weapons. They are largely impacting civilians, and many of those are children. It seems unconscionable that all governments, particularly our own government, would not do everything in its power to make sure that the use of these munitions becomes something of the past, and that we would also do everything in our power to contribute the dollars we can to help countries clear these munitions.
The Cluster Munition Coalition provides a bit of background on the convention and says:
The central provision of the Convention on Cluster Munitions is the ban on the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions. This makes it illegal in every country that joins the Convention for anyone to use cluster munitions or engage in any production or trade of the weapon. Other weapons that have been banned in this way include antipersonnel landmines as well as biological and chemical weapons.
The ban also extends to any activity that would assist other countries in the use, stockpiling, production or transfer of cluster munitions. This means that if a country, for example the UK, has joined the treaty banning cluster munitions and takes part in a joint military operation with another country that has not, for example the US, then UK troops must not intentionally do anything that would in any way assist in the use of these weapons during that operation.
They go on to talk about the Oslo process, launched by Norway in 2007 to work with like-minded states on a ban. At that time:
The Convention, signed by 94 states when it opened for signature in Oslo, Norway on 3 December 2008, is an historic achievement. The strength of the treaty is largely due to the prohibition on cluster munitions as an entire category of weapons. The negotiators rejected proposals for broad exceptions from the ban and for a transition period during which cluster munitions could still be used. The obligations relating to victim assistance are ground-breaking; they demand the full realisation of the rights of people affected by cluster munitions and require states to implement effective victim assistance measures. The Convention’s comprehensive ban has contributed to the increasingly powerful international stigma against cluster munitions, making it clear to the world that no actor, including those states that have not yet joined the Convention, should ever use cluster munitions again.
I want to touch briefly on a couple of clauses in the convention itself. A document from March 28, 2014 says the following about the convention:
The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions is a legally binding international treaty that comprehensively prohibits the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of cluster munitions, requires destruction of stockpiled cluster munitions within eight years, and clearance of contaminated land within 10 years. It recognizes the rights of individuals and communities affected by the weapon and requires states to provide assistance. The Convention also obliges countries to assist affected states to fulfill their obligations....
As of 13 September 2013, a total of 113 governments had joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions including stockpilers, former users and producers of the weapon as well as the majority of affected countries.
As members have noted, Canada has signed onto the convention, but we are dealing with the process of ratification at this point.
Article 1 of the convention on general obligations and scope of application says that the production, stockpiling, use and transfer of cluster munitions are prohibited in all circumstances, including in international conflicts and conflicts of a non-international nature. It is also prohibited to assist, encourage, or induce anyone to engage in any activity prohibited by the convention.
I am not going to go through every article, but there are a couple that I do want to mention.
One of the other pieces that many people have spoken about is important to acknowledge. There is a victim assistance clause under article 5 of the convention, which adopts a holistic view of victim assistance by requiring state parties to ensure that victims of cluster munitions can enjoy their human rights. It notes that state parties are obliged to provide assistance to cluster munition victims, including medical care, rehabilitation, and psychological support, and to assist their social and economic inclusion. Cluster munition victims include all persons directly impacted by cluster munitions, as well as their affected families and communities. It continues that state parties must develop a national action plan to implement victim assistance activities and to designate a national focal point within their government for coordinating all matters related to the article. The article further stipulates that in their work on victim assistance, state parties must consult with and involve cluster munition victims and organizations working on this issue. Furthermore, state parties should integrate victim assistance work into existing mechanisms to make it more cost efficient and effective.
Another article I want to mention is article 21. It is a somewhat unfortunate article that Canada worked to have included, one that allows for continued military interoperability. In it, state parties are required to promote universalization of the convention to notify states not party to the convention of their treaty obligations and to discourage states not party to the convention from using cluster munitions. Moreover, state parties may engage in military co-operation and operations with states not party to the convention that might engage in prohibited activities, but must still respect their article 1 duty to never assist anyone with any prohibited act.
It is troubling that Canada worked to have this included in the convention. We hoped that Canada would work hard to convince every country with whom we have co-operative relationships to ratify the convention. They would sign the convention and then ratify the convention domestically. That would be a much preferable role for Canada to play on the international stage.
I want to touch for a moment on a story from a woman who removes cluster munitions in her home country. This article from the The Guardian of August 2011 is as relevant today as the day it was written. The headline reads, “'I feel like I've saved a life': the women clearing Lebanon of cluster bombs”. The sub-heading reads, “An all-female team is doing the hazardous and painstaking work of removing unexploded...ordnance from the 2006 war”. It states:
Cluster bombs burst open in mid-air and release bomblets that are supposed to detonate on impact, but many of the ones fired on Lebanon did not explode, lying on the ground instead like landmines with the potential to blow up at any time. The women's team works in tandem with other teams of searchers, all co-ordinated by the Lebanese army, to clear up the unexploded ordnance that still litters the countryside.
The woman in the story says:
Women are more patient than men. That is why we are good at this job. We work more slowly and maybe we are a little more afraid than men. Whatever the sex of those searching the undergrowth, the risks are still the same. One careless move, and they could lose a leg. The previous day, a searcher in another mining team was injured, reminding everyone of the dangers of the job. Everyone has their blood type embroidered on their vest for good reason.
Can anyone imagine doing a job where, when people go to work, they have their blood type on their shirt or vest so that if something blows up or they are injured in some way on that job, they can be automatically blood-typed so they can get immediate assistance? Imagine working in those kinds of circumstances.
The woman goes on to say:
“My kids always worry about me, especially yesterday when they heard about the accident”, says Abeer Asaad, team member and mother to five daughters. “They asked me to quit my job yesterday, they were so scared.
“I was unemployed when I heard that NPA was recruiting wormen for a de-mining team and I applied without telling anyone, not even my husband. When he found out he didn't want me to do it. I was scared too. Just hearing the word 'bomb' would make you scared. But when I began to work it was different, especially when you are careful all the time and follow the rules. You need to be alert and focused when you are in the field, and you must check the ground slowly”.
Zein too says her family have come to accept her job after four years in the field. "I was an English teacher for eight years. I wanted a change, and this could not be more different than teaching”.
“Of course, my family was worried but now they ask me everyday how many clusters I found, how many I destroyed”.
She is the only woman in the country to be trained in explosives demolition and at the end of the day detonates the bomblets they find. “I am so happy when we find them and I can carry out what I have been trained for”.
In the story she says that when she does it, she feels like she has saved a life or she has saved a child from a maiming that would alter his or her life in a way that we cannot even imagine.
Later in the story, the author talks about a case of how random and how accidental this can be:
It was a year after the war that Rasha Zayyoun joined the list of casualties. Life had been returning to normal for the then 17-year-old and her family after the devastation of the previous summer. Her father brought home a bushel of thyme he had harvested for Rasha to clean, but neither of them noticed a bomblet hidden among the leaves. As she began work her finger got caught on the device and thinking it was a piece of rubbish, she threw It aside. As it hit the ground it exploded. Rasha lost her left leg below the knee.
“It was so painful. It was like torture”, she said at her family horne in the village of Maarakeh where she is trying to build a life for herself as a dressmaker. “I have a prosthetic leg now but l can only walk for a few minutes on it”.
Stories like Rasha's are what make Asaad sing and dance when she finds a bomblet.
“I feel like I have saved a life”, she beams. If I find a cluster and take it out, then there will be no victim from it. The feeling is beyond description”.
What we have are teams of men and women all over the world, taking their lives in their hands as they try to clear their countries of these extremely dangerous munitions. I reiterate that we only hope that Canada will play a role on the world stage where we would not have to have this debate because those munitions would not be used by any country in any circumstance.
I have another paper that is a pilot study on technical and non-technical considerations when developing and implementing new technology for the humanitarian mine action community. This is a very good article because it talks about the social, political, cultural and other economic influences on mine action operations. The article talks about the fact that it is not a simple matter to go into countries and remove these munitions, whether land mines or cluster munitions, and that there are numerous social, political and cultural factors that need to be included, like education levels which affect the productivity and ability to use high-tech equipment.
Culture affects the choices of the kinds of tools that can be used because in some countries dogs cannot be used because of some cultural factors. Biotechnology introduced for the purposes of mine action could disrupt the indigenous environmental balance. National governments' interference or support will impact productivity and clearance rates of the operation. There are many factors, and I have not had time to even begin to talk about the impacts on the economy.
When people know, for example, that farm fields have been infiltrated by cluster munitions, what does that do to the productivity of the men and women who have to go and work those fields? It is as simple as the story about picking a time and having their life changed as a result of that.
The NDP will be opposing the legislation. We hope there will be some room for further amendments.